I know you know, but I’m just gonna quickly resurface the collective feels we’ve all had when coming across this Lirika Matoshi number on IG and TikTok again and again this year: Oooh, I one hundred percent need this totally frivolous, sort of impractical, but so ethereal $490 fruity midi. (No idea what I’m talking about? Congrats on your social media cleanse, honestly.)
This phenomenon—which in many cases that this writer can personally attest to results in an actual purchase—is something we’re dubbing Outfit FOMO. Relatively common before the pandemic, now it is e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e, according to fashion psychologist Dawnn Karen.
Some of it can be explained by the “familiarity principle,” she says, which basically means that we develop emotional attachments to stuff we see all the time, and we start to feel anxiety or frustration when we can’t call it our own.
Buying something everyone else is wearing is also a way to feel connected to others, like we’re part of a community. “We all want to feel like we belong,” Karen says. “Having the same dress creates this feeling of acceptance.”
That’s especially important right now when we’re all isolated and, TBH, lonely. There’s another layer here: The community that Outfit FOMO makes us want to join is often one that’s populated by—or at least promoted by—influencers. The people who live seemingly picture-perfect, terribly chic lives in their Strawberry Dresses, their Zara Polka
Dots, their Amazon Puffers (move your eyeballs down below for some visuals). And don’t those perfect lives just look so alluring right now?
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Twirling around in the flirty pink dress that so many others have twirled around in before you also creates the sense that we’re “feeling what we think everyone else is feeling,” says Karen, whether that’s sexiness, confidence, or happiness. So in a way, Outfit FOMO is as much about a vibe as it is about actual outfits. And in the case of the Strawberry Dress, that vibe is something a lot of us were desperate for in 2020.
Hence why an item so pricey—again, nearly $500!—could be so popular with consumers in a recession where…the social gatherings at which we’d wear said fancy frock aren’t even permitted.
And that brings me to maybe the wildest part of all: After actually buying a coveted item, we don’t even need to wear it out of the house to tap into that sweet fashion serotonin, says Karen. FOMO itself is a construct born out of social media, so it makes sense that when we get our hands on a Strawberry Dress, a quick pic for the feed is all it takes to get a hit of happiness, belonging, and feeling cool. Who cares that you’re just copying off people on the internet—that is, after all, kind of the point.
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